10 Must-Sees at the History Center

Pittsburgh trolley, Heinz History Center

Pittsburgh Streetcar #1724

When you step into the History Center’s first floor Great Hall, one of the first things you’ll see is Pittsburgh Streetcar #1724. The streetcar, which was taken out of service in 1988, was saved by the History Center seven years later and underwent a four-month restoration before moving to its current home. Board the trolley and take a seat to enjoy vintage trolley ads and imagine yourself back in time at the height of Streetcar #1724’s service through the communities in the South Hills.

160-Year Old Pickles

In 1856, the locally-built Steamboat Arabia hit a tree snag and sank in the Missouri River outside of Kansas City. Thousands of everyday household objects went down with the boat, including bottled goods like pie fillings, ketchup, and pickles. When the Hawley family unearthed the Arabia over a century later, they discovered that much of its contents were perfectly preserved in an oxygen-free environment, including the jars of sweet pickles. Housed in a temperature-controlled and oxygen-free case, a bottle of 160-year old pickles is on display in the Grace M. Compton Conservation Lab in the Special Collections Gallery.

160-year-old Pickles, Steamboat Arabia, Heinz History Center
Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception shoes, Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum

Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception Shoes

On December 23, 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with 22 seconds left in their AFC playoff matchup. On fourth down, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass downfield intended for Frenchy Fuqua, just as Fuqua collided with Jack Tatum of the Raiders. Rookie running back Franco Harris reached down for the ball for a shoestring grab and raced to the endzone for a play forever known as The Immaculate Reception. See the shoes Franco Harris wore during this incredible moment in NFL history inside the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

Heinz, Noble & Company Horseradish Bottle

Before the H.J. Heinz Company became world famous for ketchup, Heinz produced another kind of condiment: horseradish. One of the earliest bottles once containing Heinz, Noble & Company’s horseradish, c. 1872, greets you when you enter the world of Heinz at the new Heinz exhibition.

Horseradish bottle, Heinz, Noble & Company, Heinz Exhibit, Heinz History Center
Slave shackles, From Slavery to Freedom, Heinz History Center

Iron ankle manacles

Iron ankle manacles, original hardware used to confine captives on slave ships during the Atlantic Ocean crossing in the 19th century and earlier, open the From Slavery to Freedom exhibition. Imagine for a moment how it would feel to be shackled in iron, unable to move. Explore the lives of enslaved people, as well as the agents of change here in Western Pa., who have worked for freedom and equality over the past 200 years.

Elektro and Sparko

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Westinghouse Electric Company debuted Elektro, the world’s first voice-activated robot, and his little dog Sparko. Elektro stood seven feet tall, weighed over 250 pounds, smoked cigarettes, and could count to ten on his fingers. The duo had an hourly show at the fair in the Westinghouse Pavilion to the delight of tens of thousands of visitors. An exact replica Elektro and Sparko, along with original advertisements and photos, are on display in Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation.

Westinghouse's Elektro and Sparko, World's Fair, Heinz History Center
Gaines Funeral Home Hearse, Special Collections Gallery, Heinz History Center

Gaines Funeral Home Hearse

Gaines Funeral Home, founded by George W. Gaines in Homestead, Pa. in 1919, moved to various locations around Pittsburgh until taking over the former Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in the East End of the city in 1929. A black Cadillac hearse, a 1941 model Sixty Special, is part of our African American Collection and is on display in the Special Collections Gallery.

King Friday XIII’s Castle

In 1968, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered, bringing Fred Rogers into the homes of countless children—probably including you! Relive your childhood and snap a photo with King Friday XIII’s Castle from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The castle was home to King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, and Prince Tuesday. Did you know that Mister Rogers gave voice to both the king and queen?

King Friday XIII's Castle, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Special Collections Gallery, Heinz History Center
Glass cullet, Glass: Shattering Notions, Heinz History Center

Glass cullet

What happens when the ingredients used to make glass fail to melt properly in a furnace during production? It becomes waste glass, such as this glass cullet in Glass: Shattering Notions. In this piece of raw, unformed glass you can still see ingredients from the batch made up of silica (sand), soda ash, and lime that didn’t melt properly. The cullet was chipped out of the furnace at L.E. Smith in Mount Pleasant, Pa. in 1990.

Jeep

The original design for the iconic Jeep came from the little American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pa. In 1940, the U.S. Army asked for bids for a reconnaissance car that could take the place of horses in the field. While Bantam presented the design and developed the prototype, it couldn’t manufacture the jeeps in the huge volume necessary for the army, so the production contract went elsewhere. See the oldest surviving Jeep, the BRC 60 nicknamed “Gramps,” on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, in the first floor Great Hall.

Bantam Reconaissance Car #1007, "Gramps", Made by American Bantam Car Company, 1940, on loan from the Smithsonian

Sarah Reck is the Senior Digital Marketing Manager at the Heinz History Center.

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